I have a movie-quoter in my house. My son has been memorizing and quoting movies since he could talk. First it was Thomas. Whole episodes of Thomas. It was like hearing them play on repeat, over and over again–songs, lines, and all. As he’s learned more language of his own, he has moved away from repeating the scripts of his favorite episodes, and has moved on to memorizing random lines from his favorite movies…which (thank goodness) have evolved beyond All Thomas, All the Time.
I once read something that said that kids on the Autism spectrum will store up and use movie quotes because they can’t process the appropriate response of their own quickly enough. So I started paying attention to some of the things my son says. When he runs, jumps, and crashes around the house on a sensory-seeking high, he yells out “To infinity, and beyond!” over and over. While riding his bike, he yells, “Ride like the wind, Bullseye!” (Toy Story, anyone?) The real eye-opener, though, was realizing that whenever we tell him not to do something, he yells out, “Gah! I can do whatever I want!” It’s a quote from Diesel 10 in one of the Thomas episodes, when another engine tries to tell him what to do. It’s his way of expressing his distress at not getting to do something, when he really can’t find the words to say, “But Mother dear, if it’s not too much trouble, I would really like to jump off the top of the piano onto the trampoline, because I’d really like to see if I can fly like Buzz Lightyear does.” Realizing that some of his seemingly “random” quoting serves a real purpose, we’re trying to help him learn to use his own words to express his feelings. (It’s a work in progress. Diesel 10 is heard several times a day around here.)
Sometimes, though, I think he quotes simply because he loves the rhythm of the words and the way they sound coming out of his mouth. There’s a line in the newest Ice Age movie when Sid mistakenly compliments a male dinosaur. As he runs away with the dinosaur chasing him, he yells “I thought you were a female dinosaur!!!” My son loves that line. It flies out of his mouth a million times a week–usually as he chases the cat, or his sister. Or as they retaliate, and chase him. My little man thinks it is hilarious. And as far as I can tell, the only purpose this quote might serve him is to express his delight in the fact that he is either chasing someone, or being chased! Or, maybe it’s more…
This morning, I killed a spider in the kitchen sink. My daughter (the queen of random information for every situation) started talking about how if it was a female spider, it would have already laid her egg sack, and hopefully I killed it before that happened or we’d have baby spiders everywhere, etc. etc. etc. (Honestly, my mind froze on “egg sack” and started freaking out a little, so I don’t know what else she said.) My son, who shares my sincere loathing of arachnids, popped in with, “Gah! I thought you were a female spider!” and took off running down the hall. I was so impressed that he had changed up his quote to fit the situation at hand, that my mind moved past all that “egg sack” talk and allowed me to continue packing lunches.
Suddenly, he popped back into the kitchen and said, “Wait! What’s a ‘female’?” My daughter and I both burst out laughing, and he looked at us very puzzled, and said, “What’s so funny? I don’t know what a ‘female’ is.” He’s been saying this line for months, but it took him saying it in a new context to realize that he didn’t actually know what it meant!
This whole conversation got me thinking about how many things my son says that he just doesn’t get. He once quoted a line that included a swear word. Only I didn’t know he was quoting. I was shocked and appalled, and demanded to know where he had heard that word (because I’m sure it couldn’t possibly have been from me). Until my daughter told me it came from a Stuart Little movie. (Really??? They swear in that movie???) When I told him he couldn’t say that line any more because it had a bad word in it, he told me, “Yeah, I know that word is bad. But I don’t think that bad cat (in the movie) knows it.”
I love that he has a love for words. Maybe he’ll be a song writer, or an author, or write movies when he grows up. Maybe he’ll just be a wannabe, like his mom, who writes for the joy of it. Or maybe he’ll be content to just memorize movie lines and quote them when they fit the situation. As long as he holds on to this joy of language, I’m okay with it. But maybe I will start making sure he understands what he’s saying a little better!